I had spent the last three years living and teaching ESL at an International School in China, and now I was heading back to the U.S. where I would hopefully find a job.
I arrived on the Navajo Reservation, the land of my ancestors. I had grown up hearing stories from my dad about the Navajo and had long desired to live and teach there. Having obtained only a quarter of that heritage, I more closely resembled a bilagaana and was what the people there would call a “white Navajo”. Still, these were my people and I was looking forward to teaching at the school.
The comments about “my class” began at teacher training.
“Oh, you have that class,” a veteran teacher said ominously, giving me a knowing look.
“They went through five teachers last year.”
“Shiloh likes to run things.”
“Cali hid in the closet.”
My confidence was beginning to dwindle. Ok, these weren’t going to be my nice quiet Asian students. But I would manage.
Two weeks into school I was facing every teacher’s worst nightmare. Nineteen 7th graders were completely out of control – standing on chairs, tables, desks, chasing each other around the classroom, throwing paper wads and anything else they could get their hands on…
I was standing in the middle, tears welling up in my eyes. I’d quit. Simple as that. I was in way over my head.
At that moment, the star pupil of the class looked me straight in the eyes. “Are you going to leave us, Miss?”
My mind raced through all of the conversations I’d heard. Suddenly, I found a strength and resolve I didn’t know I possessed.
“No, Melanie.” I replied. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Somehow, order was restored.
Over the next month, I poured everything I had into those students and began to see a positive response.
I was standing in the principal’s office.
“Your students are out of control,” he raged. “You have two weeks to get it together or we’re putting someone else in your position. You have to yell at them! They need to be afraid of you!”
Thoughts and emotions raced through my mind. I’m a petite, 5’6” woman. I’m the kind of person people are comforted by. My voice is naturally quiet. I am not the kind of person who inspires fear! Also, I strongly believe that students do not need to be afraid of you in order to obey you.
With as much composure as I could manage, I relayed the facts to the students. They were shocked.
For the rest of the day, they obeyed my every word.
For perhaps the first time, they were obeying out of love, not fear.
I passed my two-week mark.
Two new students arrived. One day, they decided to cause chaos in the classroom and I sent them to the principal’s office.
The only one to get in trouble that day was me.
The principal took it as proof that I wasn’t handling the classroom and assigned me to a probationary 30 day period in Special Ed. to prove myself as a classroom manager.
I was heartbroken. Saying good-bye never gets easier.
The 4th grade teacher was fired and I was the replacement.
A few days later, I was brought before the school district authorities. I defended the accusations brought against me and was allowed to continue as the 4th grade teacher.
I was seriously considering quitting.
“My child,” I heard God say, “This is the place I have called you to be. Be my light for these students and for these teachers.”
The trials continued, but I found myself better able to face them with joy.
At the end of the year, my contract wasn’t renewed and I once again said good-bye to people I had come to love.
Years later, I can see the outworking of Romans 5:3. Though I didn’t exult in my tribulations at the time, I can see that they brought about perseverance. As I persevered, I grew in character. I learned to trust God in all circumstances. I learned that success isn’t measured in earthly rewards or in the praise of men, but rather, is gained when we hold fast to what the Lord has given us to do, working out His will to the best of our knowledge, to the best of our ability, regardless of the outcome.